A few years ago I was due to go to Southern India. We’d planned to stay somewhere quite remote that you could only reach by boat. The plan was to spend time fishing and to come up with new recipe ideas. I’ve never been to India before and I like the food – it is some of my favourite food to cook – but I’ve never been tempted to open an Indian restaurant. Sadly, I had to cancel at the last minute, so on my pilgrimage I would go there. I’d still like to do that some time.
Would you make any special stops?
I would stop anywhere I could fish and try new ingredients and interesting dishes, so I think Asia would be a good place to do that. I’ve been to Tokyo before and I’d love to go back. Japanese food isn’t what people might think: sushi to the Japanese is like sandwiches are to the English – it is their form of snack. I went to Japan for two weeks and we ate as much as we could in that time, including more obscure things such as river turtle. The first dish I ate there was live prawns. They’re shelled in front of you, so you eat the flesh alive and then hey bring the shells back deep-fried and sprinkled with salt afterwards.
Who would be your travelling companions?
I usually go away with my friend Robin Hutson, owner of The Pig Hotels, so I’m sure he’d be up for it if I mention the word “fishing”. Fishing has been in the news a lot recently, thanks to the documentary Seaspiracy. We should all be eating fish, but supporting local fisherman that fish sustainably. Seaspiracy was made by vegan activists – I’ve heard it said that there’s more truth in a Donald Trump press conference than in Seaspiracy! Speak to any local fisherman whose living depends on what he catches and you’ll find he’s very angry about Seaspiracy’s message.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What is it?
I’d love to transplant Hunan in Pimlico to my route. It’s a very old-fashioned Chinese cooking. They don’t have a menu, and there is not one grain of rice or one noodle in sight. It’s proper home-cooked food served on small plates and has been for about 40 years, long before small plates became fashionable. It’s very, very good, as is the wine list, but I leave it to Michael, the owner, to choose the wine for me.
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
Probably a church hall and I’d create a cocktail bar for a night cap. I’m not fussy about accommodation. At festivals, I glamp and if I go fishing I’ll always stay in a fishing lodge. When you’re fishing, the main thing is the fishing, not the accommodation.
Which books would you take?
Probably my friend Chris Barez Brown’s book Upping Your Elvis. It’s inspiring, uplifting and a great way to reevaluatewhat you’re doing in life. Chris has written a few books, he’s a business therapist, if you like – he helps management see clearly into business and how they could be doing it. I have read lots of his
books, but I don’t read habitually – I’ve written more books than I have read!
What Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?
I’d probably be more likely to ponder what I would be cooking for dinner based on the new ingredients I’d found at the local markets on my pilgrimage route. I’m not religious and I was not brought up religious either.
You stop in a church. What would be your go-to prayer?
The Lord’s Prayer, because it’s the prayer I know best.
It’s your turn to cook. What is your speciality?
Ah, that depends on the season and what I’m craving at that moment. If I have a dinner party at home for friends, I’ll usually cook something Asian because I don’t cook Asian food in my restaurants. But what I cook always depends on what ingredients I have to hand. I like experimenting with puddings because I’m not a classically trained pastry chef so I try and make puddings that don’t have traditional methods.
What’s the sing-along to keep everyone’s spirits up?
I’m not really into singing. I leave thatto my daughter!
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag.
What is it?
My fishing rod.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
My friends, my garden and my restaurants. I do the garden myself at home in Dorset and everything in my garden is edible. It’s the same in the kitchen garden at my pub, The Fox Inn in Corscombe, Dorset.
What would you miss the least?
Driving. I spend at least half my day driving around between The Fox Inn and The Oyster & Fish House, in Lyme Regis, as well as my HIX Oyster & Fish Truck, so it would be nice not to be behind the wheel every day.
Mark Hix is a chef, restaurateur and food writer. His most recent book is Hooked: Adventures in Angling and Eating (Mitchell Beazley)
This article first appeared in the June issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe now.